Listen to the full conversation below:
Do you remember hearing about the butterfly effect? The butterfly flaps its wings and sets in motion a series of escalating reactions that lead to a hurricane. It’s a story that illuminates key truths. Radical transformation is not linear. Unpredictable. Small actions at key moments can cause outsized consequences.
“The light always comes out of the shadows,” Stephen Post says in our conversation, “ we’re living at a time of great transition and vast opportunity.” This moment of upheaval asks for our diligence and courage in the face of the unknown to ensure we tip towards love and justice.
Transformation, like all new creation, needs incubators to flourish. Just as the womb is the original incubator of creation, so too are our workplaces and homes and neighborhoods modern day incubators of possibility.
As the Director for the Center of Medical Humanities at Stony Brook University, Post researched how hospitals could become true centers for well-being and how his medical students could provide more compassionate care for patients.
He took stock of his students: wildly passionate and idealistic, yes, but exhausted, toxically stressed, and teetering on burnout. They needed to experience the healing of compassionate care themselves before they could be expected to be that presence for others. So Post seized the opportunity to create communities of care across his medical school and hospital based on Parker Palmer’s Circles of Trust model.
Small groups share their struggles, challenges, and joys in facilitated conversation. These little beacons of human dignity began to have far-reaching impact. A crack, Post discovered, where the light of healing enters healthcare systems.
Transform ourselves, and we transform the world. A butterfly flapping its wings.
Sir John Templeton, world renowned philanthropist, tapped Stephen—years ago—to run his Institute for Research on Unlimited Love. Who better to help the Templeton Foundation explore the biggest questions facing humanity at the intersection of spirituality and science than Post, best-selling author, chair of United Nations Conference on Global Transformation, and star of positive psychology?
At the Institute, Post explores how we live out our values of love, kindness, and justice and how those values contribute to our healing and well-being. “Many people inaccurately think of love as something that cannot be defined, something so “soft” or “personal.” Not true, says Post. The Institute studies the ways in which love shapes human health and behaviors. “When we consider the daunting challenges faced globally due to increased social fragmentation and the spread of fear-based behaviors, we need to understand love as the root of human flourishing, a gateway to the moral vision of a shared humanity.”
Aligning our day-to-day behaviors with our values takes great patience, and is small, slow work. But we’ve been misled to think our world’s complex problems require complex solutions. It’s quite the opposite. Inspired by the butterfly effect, we begin where we can.
In our conversation, Post highlights three simple steps families can do to foster kindness. Our small shifts can and will add up to something transformative. Looking around at our offices, yoga studios, and temples, can we develop our own communities of care to build our resilience? Who are the people in our lives who support our intentional growth?
If we can bring transparency and intention to our close relationships, we can evolve together. While there are individual aspects of healing, true transformation is interdependent. It requires community-centeredness. Finding a tribe to help us articulate our goals, hold us accountable, celebrate, challenge, and encourage us in a container of unconditional love are key practices to aligning our lives with our values.
In the multitude is where our power lies.
Stephen Post challenges us to dutifully tend to the next stitch in the small corner of the fabric that weaves us all together. One stitch. Then the next. Co-creating the pattern with a fabric that’s alive with possibility. Trusting that through the faithful diligence the perfect texture will emerge.